The long-held place of France as the top market for wine in the world fell to the U.S. last year, according to data released today by wine industry consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

Shipments of wine to the U.S. from producers in California and other states and countries increased 2 percent to a record of nearly 330 million 9-liter cases last year from 2009 (see chart), the Woodside-based firm estimated in its periodic The Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. That amounted to a retail value of $30 billion, an increase of 4 percent in that timeframe.

Wine shipments in France totaled 320.8 million in the fiscal year 2009-2010, according to the report.

California wine made up 61 percent of U.S. wine volume sales, or 199.6 million cases worth $18.5 billion at retail. That was an increase of 1 percent from 2009 sales. California’s total wine shipments worldwide to all markets in the U.S. and abroad (including exports) were 241.8 million cases, up 2% from the previous year.

Jon Fredrikson noted the timing of the U.S. market's consumption surpassing that of France at the dawning of the 20th year since the "French paradox" broadcast by CBS' 60 Minutes news program on the correlation between moderate wine consumption and health. That led to a marked shift in red wine consumption.

"Wine consumption is still a low 2.6 gallons per capita, but the adult population is growing every year as echo boomers come of age and adopt wine just as their baby boomer parents did," Mr. Fredrikson said.

Catching and retaining consumer interest last year were "creative" new wines, including value-priced muscat, pinot grigio, riesling, off-dry wines and affordable inland California pinot noir, he said.

Mr. Fredrikson observed that sales of high-end wines remained challenging in 2010, but marketers used social media technology to reach consumers.

Bobby Koch, president and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based trade advocate Wine Institute, said wine sales will continue to grow in the U.S. despite competition from beer and spirits.

"Americans are increasingly interested in a lifestyle with wine and food, demonstrated by the presence of wineries in all 50 states and 17 consecutive years of growth in U.S. wine consumption," he said.

California chardonnay continued to be the top-selling variety in the U.S., with more than 53 million cases sold in 2010, an increase of 5 percent from 2009, according to Mr. Fredrikson.

California bottled varietal wine also growing notably in sales were pinot noir, zinfandel, riesling and muscat.

Sparkling wine sales in the U.S. increased 10 in 2010, suggesting that consumers may be broadening their use of these wines beyond special occasions, according to The Gomberg-Fredrikson Report. The category's 15.4 million cases, mostly made in California, represent 4.6 percent of all U.S. wine sales.

U.S. wine exports, 90 percent from California, last year jumped 25.6 percent in value, boosting winery revenues to an estimated $1.14 billion, according to Commerce Department data. Volume shipments rose 1.9 percent to 47.3 million nine-liter cases. Wine export volume nearly doubled in the last decade.

The largest proportion of U.S. wine exports by value (38 percent) were shipped to the 27-country European Union. Exports value last year was $435 million, 14 percent higher than in 2009, and volume increased 11 percent to 27.6 million cases. Changes in the dollar exchange rate, a gradually recovering economy and California's effective marketing and high wine quality have helped exports rebound, according to the Wine Institute.

Top markets last year by wine export value were Canada at $308 million; Hong Kong, $116 million; Japan, $76 million; and China, $45 million.

California wine shipments 

YearCalif. wine shipments to U.S. and abroad (mil. 9-L cases)

Calif. wine shipments to U.S. (mil. 9-L cases)Est. retail value of Calif. wine to U.S.2010241.8199.6$18.5 billion2009237.1196.7$17.9 billion2008239.8196.3$18.5 billion2007233.5192.3$18.9 billion2006227.1188.4$17.8 billion2005224.1185.6$16.5 billion2004219.4180.1$15.0 billion2003207.6175.4$14.3 billion2002195.2168.7$13.8 billion2001188.9162.8$13.4 billion2000187.5164.9$13.0 billion1999186.4167.0$13.0 billion1998181.9161.9$12.0 billion

Notes: Includes table, champagne/sparkling, dessert, vermouth, other special natural, sake and others. Excludes foreign bulk shipped by California wineries.  To convert cases to gallons, multiply cases by 2.3775.

Sources: Gomberg-Fredrikson & Associates and Wine Institute.

U.S. wine sales, 1991--2010Preliminary data on shipments from California, other states and foreign producers entering U.S. distribution, in millions of 9-liter cases 


Table wine1 Dessert wine2Sparkling wine/ Champagne Total wineTotal retail value2010285.229.115.4329.7$30.0 billion2009281.527.413.9322.8$28.7 billion2008274.727.613.5315.8$30.0 billion2007273.526.513.8313.8$30.4 billion2006264.024.113.6301.6$27.8 billion2005256.221.913.0291.1$25.8 billion2004247.718.913.0279.7$24.0 billion2003239.716.812.1268.8$22.3 billion2002232.215.611.8259.5$21.8 billion2001215.414.311.4241.4$20.3 billion2000213.213.911.8238.9$19.2 billion1999199.813.015.6228.4$18.1 billion1998196.013.012.2221.2$17.0 billion1997193.912.212.2218.3$16.1 billion1996184.613.012.2210.3$14.3 billion1995169.912.612.6195.2$12.2 billion1994165.713.913.0192.6$11.5 billion1993160.214.713.9188.9$11.0 billion1992170.315.613.9200.2$11.4 billion1991165.716.413.9196.0$10.9 billion

Sources: Wine Institute, Department of Commerce, Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

Notes: Totals may not add up exactly due to rounding.  Excludes exports.  To convert cases to gallons, multiply cases by 2.3775. 1Includes all still wines not over 14 percent alcohol; excludes Canadian malt coolers. 2Includes all still wines over 14 percent alcohol and sake.  History revised based on U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau reports.